Thanks to reports in the past and statements from his own father, Elon Musk’s name will always be related to a narrative suggesting that his family was obnoxiously wealthy because they owned an emerald mine. The emerald mine story is fodder for Musk critics, as it provides an argument that supports the narrative that Musk is fond of lying and that he never really worked his way up.
To be fair, some of the controversy surrounding Musk and his dad’s alleged emerald mine can be traced back to the SpaceX CEO himself. During a 2014 phone interview, Musk mentioned that his father, Errol Musk, “had a share in an emerald mine in Zambia.” Musk would later walk back on this statement, arguing years later that his father didn’t own an emerald mine.
Earlier this year, Musk provided some much-needed context about his apparent about-face with regards to his father’s supposed emerald mine. In a post on X, Musk explained that for a while, he believed his father when he was told Errol owned a share in a mine in Zambia. However, nobody has ever seen the mine and there are no records of it. Musk then noted that there’s just no “objective evidence whatsoever” that the mine ever existed.
I grew up in a lower, transitioning to upper, middle income situation, but did not have a happy childhood. Haven’t inherited anything ever from anyone, nor has anyone given me a large financial gift.
My father created a small electrical/mechanical engineering company that was…
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 6, 2023
As per Walter Isaacson, whose book on the Tesla CEO is coming out this week, it turns out that Elon Musk was really telling the truth. Errol Musk never owned an emerald mine.
The biographer noted that Errol Musk used to own a light plane in the 1980s, and he sold it to an entrepreneur in 1986 in exchange for some emeralds. The emeralds were from a mine that the businessman owned in Zambia. Errol Musk confirmed with Isaacson that the mine was never registered, and he simply imported raw emeralds into South Africa and had them cut in Johannesburg.
“Many people came to me with stolen parcels. On trips overseas, I would sell emeralds to jewelers. It was a cloak-and-dagger thing because none of it was legal,” Errol Musk told Isaacson. The biographer also noted that Errol Musk’s emerald business collapsed during the 1980s, and he lost his earnings from it.
I only briefly lived with my Mom tbc lol
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 7, 2023
From these comments, it would appear that while Errol Musk did have an emerald business for a while, it did not make the family ridiculously wealthy. This is quite in line with what Elon Musk has suggested in the past, though it is quite different from Errol Musk’s past claims. Errol, after all, has claimed in the past that the Musk family had so much money, they could not close their safe. Such an image, apart from being something straight out of a cartoon, is quite suspect considering that Maye Musk, Elon’s mother, stayed at a rent-controlled apartment when she and her children emigrated abroad.
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